The best defense in the NFL showed up on time to Super Bowl XXXVII, but it took the best offense in the league three quarters to show up Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held the Oakland Raiders in check, holding a 21-point lead late into the third quarter. The Raiders scored three consecutive times to make it closer, but the Buccaneers went on to win, 48-21, in their first Super Bowl appearance.
Brad Johnson passed for 215 yards and two touchdowns and Michael Pittman rushed for 124 yards on 29 carries, while Tampa Bay intercepted Rich Gannon, the 2002 NFL Most Valuable Player, five times for three touchdowns, including a 45-yard return by Derrick Brooks and a 50-yard return by Dwight Smith in the final 90 seconds of the game.
The Buccaneers (15-4) took a 20-3 lead at halftime and scored twice in 47 seconds to extend the lead to 31 points at 34-3.
Johnson connected with Keenan McCardell on a five-yard pass with 5 minutes, 30 seconds left in the third quarter. The Buccaneers started on their own 11-yard line and drove the length of the field on 14 plays, with Joe Jurevicius making two catches for 44 yards to set up the score.
Three plays later, Smith intercepted a pass by Gannon and returned it 44 yards and Martin Gramatica converted on the extra-point attempt to make the score 34-3 with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
The Raiders (13-6) rallied, scoring three unanswered touchdowns on a 39-yard reception by Jerry Porter with 2:14 left in the third quarter and Eric Johnson returned a blocked punt 13 yards. Jerry Rice caught his third pass of the game with 7:50 left in the game, scoring on a 48-yard pass from Gannon.
Tampa Bay used its defense to score 20 unanswered points in the second quarter and build a 20-3 lead going into halftime.
The Buccaneers took advantage of an Oakland turnover to take a 6-3 lead early in the second quarter.
Dexter Jackson intercepted a pass by Gannon with nine seconds left in the first quarter. The Buccaneers scored nine plays later when Gramatica connected on a 43-yard field goal with 11:20 left in the first half.
Jackson had two interceptions, tying him for second in Super Bowl history for most in one game, as well as Smith.
Tampa Bay took a 13-3 lead when Mike Alstott scored on a two-yard dive with 6:25 left in the first half. The Buccaneers got their best field position of the first half to start the drive, thanks to a 25-yard put return by Karl Williams that put Tampa Bay on the Raiders 27-yardline.
Pittman had two rushes for 25 yards to set up Alstott’s scoring run.
The Buccaneers’ final score of the half was a 10-play, 77-yard drive that lasted 3:15 and culminated in a five-yard pass from Johnson to McCardell with 34 seconds left in the half.
Tampa Bay’s defense allowed Oakland’s offense just three first downs in the first half and held the Raiders to 62 net yards in the first half.
After starting the game 4-for-13 passing with an interception, Johnson finished the half completing 10-of-24 for 113 yards and the touchdown.
Gannon was 7-of-17 for 56 yards and two interceptions in the first half. His five interceptions set a Super Bowl record for most thrown in a single game.